Welfare reform and the benefits system have been high on the news agenda recently, but an often overlooked issue is the persistent problem of pensioner poverty. With 1.7m pensioners (14%) currently living in poverty, and £5.5bn pounds of benefits left unclaimed by pensioners, Age UK has re-launched its Let’s Talk Money campaign.
A significant amount of research highlights that there are many reasons why older people aren’t claiming the benefits that they are entitled to – from a perception that the application process is too complicated, to the belief that they don’t qualify.
With so many people slipping through the net, Age UK aims to challenge the myths around eligibility, and encourage older people to claim the benefits that they are entitled to so that they can make the most of later life.
The campaign continues to focus on encouraging older people to claim the benefits they are entitled to, such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance.
People on low incomes can use the extra money that benefits provide to pay for utility bills, broken appliances or some much needed help around the house – removing financial stress that is a burden for so many. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Money”
The Chancellor delivered his third Autumn Statement today. He tried to strike a tone of cautious optimism over recent economic data suggesting the end of the recession and rising employment. Underneath this, however, there were more cuts as Government struggles to eliminate the structural deficit as it has prioritised.
Yet again the biggest omission from the Chancellor’s statement was any plan to help resolve the crisis in social care. We welcome the continued protection for the NHS budget but unless funding for social care is urgently addressed then the knock on costs to the NHS will continue to grow. The announcement of a further two per cent cut to council budgets in two years’ time is likely to exacerbate this if it leads to further reductions to frontline care and support services that are often already stripped to the bone.
Allowing the social care system to limp along, leaving too many older people isolated and afraid of what tomorrow might bring, is not only morally questionable but makes no financial sense. Reform of care funding would be a worthy legacy for any Government, it remains a scandal that 18 months after Andrew Dilnot published his report, it remains unresolved. Continue reading “No news is not always good news”
In mid-July the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), the independent forecaster of the economy and public finances, published its annual Fiscal Sustainability report. The purpose is to identify whether and when changes in government policy may be necessary to move the public finances from an unsustainable to a sustainable path. The report paints a bleak picture for the UK’s economic recovery without further Government intervention and highlights spending related to population ageing as the key driver of this bleak economic future.
According to the OBR, in order to compensate for the demographic pressures and keep the national debt in 2060-61 at its pre-crisis level of 40% of GDP, another £17bn of savings will have to be found in 2017/18. This assumes that it is imperative to return to pre-crisis levels of debt to GDP. While this long-term aspiration is desirable there is much dispute within economic circles about whether this needs to happen quite so quickly.
It also suggests that maintaining benefits to which people are currently entitled will create a £65bn hole in the budget deficit between 2016/17 and 2061/62 and that health spending will need to increase from 6.8 per cent of GDP in 2016-17 to 9.1 per cent of GDP in 2061-62.
At first glance the figures look worrying and clearly difficult decisions lie ahead. Highlighting the need for these decisions is important – focusing the blame on ageing is unhelpful.
When you look at the detail in the report the impact of ageing is not as doomsday as the OBR make out.
Continue reading “Protecting the future: We all have to pay, but negative framing of the challenge in the context of ageing is unhelpful”
We carried out a piece of research which studied whether the proportion of older residents in lower super output areas (LSOA) in England receiving disability living allowance and attendance allowance was statistically related to the degree of income poverty among older people in the area. (LSOAs are geographical areas with a mean population of 1,500 people; there are 32,482 LSOAs in England). The paper was peer-reviewed and was just published in the Journal of Maps (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17445647.2012.695441).
We applied a number of spatial econometric techniques, given the geographical nature of the data. The data for beneficiaries come from the Department for Work and Pensions. Income poverty among older people is one of the indicators compiled by the Social Disadvantage Research Centre at the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Oxford. The estimates of total population by age are from the Office for National Statistics.
We found a greater concentration of DLA and AA recipients over state pension age living in deprived areas than in more affluent areas: nearly 30 per cent older beneficiaries live in the 20 per cent poorest of areas and approaching two thirds live in the poorest half of areas.
Even after accounting for significant spatial effects, we still found a strong, positive relationship between proportion of beneficiaries and proportion of older people in poverty .
These allowances are therefore benefiting more deprived communities.
The study does not allow us to affirm that the allowances are directly benefiting older people in lower income. However we can conclude that these benefits, although not means-tested, would be partially addressing the geographical inequalities in income of older people across England.
Reducing or eliminating these benefits would hit the harder the poorer the neighbourhood.
Last year, Age UK helped 500,000 people put £120million back in their pockets through free benefits information and advice. This year, we will continue to break down the barriers that prevent people from claiming, in particular older people not realising that they are eligible for some additional income. For more information, please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/moremoney
Find out more about our policy work on money-related issues